There is a new video out by CONVO relay called New England. When people think of New England, they think of states above Pennsylvania but the one thing they don’t think about is the significance of history that New England has within the Deaf community.
This video addresses the long history of American School for the Deaf, among other schools for the Deaf throughout New England. Some of these schools were founded in the early 1800’s. Compared to the schools for the Deaf throughout the rest of this country, that is old! (Remember, 1776 is when the Declaration of Independence was signed, ASD was only founded 41 years later in 1817) With this video, we are also reminded of Martha’s Vineyard, the one town where everybody signed.
Martha’s Vineyard Sign language (MVSL) was the sign language that was used within Martha’s Vineyard. It was used from the early 18th century to 1952 among both Deaf and hearing people within the community. There was no barrier for deaf people when they wanted to participate within the community because it was integrated. The islanders that lived on Martha’s Vineyard were exposed to a unusually high percentage of Deaf individuals that lived within their community. Even though deafness is a recessive gene, pretty much anybody would have a deaf sibling, parent, friend, or family member. (The average nationally is 1 deaf person out of 5728 people) In Chilmark, a town on the Island the average was 1 in 25 and in an even more concentrated area, 1/4 of the population was deaf. (that’s 1 in 4 people!)
CONVO’s video talks about the migration to the mainland. That’s what caused the number of deaf people on Martha’s Vineyard to dwindle. American’s School for the Deaf was the initial school that attracted people from the island and essentially is the reason why there are no longer a large number of Deaf people on the Island and why MVSL no longer exists.
With New England’s rich history, CONVO took the time to make a video about New England and their efforts to bring back the Deaf community especially after schools have been closed including Crotched Mountain School for the Deaf in 1979 and then Austine School for the Deaf in 2014.
Check out the Video on CONVO’s Facebook page.